United States Nuclear Regulatory Commission - Protecting People and the Environment

NRC Staff Proposes $88,000 Fine Against Northeast Nuclear for Discriminatory Action Against Two Employees at Millstone


NRC Seal NRC NEWS

U. S. NUCLEAR REGULATORY COMMISSION

OFFICE OF PUBLIC AFFAIRS, REGION I

475 Allendale Road, King of Prussia, Pa. 19406

 

I-99-18
March 9, 1999

CONTACT: Diane Screnci (610)337-5330/ e-mail: dps@nrc.gov
Neil A. Sheehan (610)337-5331/e-mail: nas@nrc.gov

 

NRC STAFF PROPOSES $88,000 FINE AGAINST NORTHEAST NUCLEAR
FOR DISCRIMINATORY ACTION AGAINST 2 EMPLOYEES AT MILLSTONE

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission staff has proposed an $88,000 fine against Northeast Nuclear Energy Company for discriminating against two contract employees in 1997 at Millstone Station in Waterford, Conn.

Investigations by the NRC, the utility and a third-party organization (Little Harbor Consultants) all concluded that both workers lost their jobs after raising concerns about the adequacy of the plant's motor-operated valve program manual.

NRC has further confirmed that the firings were recommended by the employees' supervisor and supported by the manager of the motor-operated valve department in which the employees and the supervisory officials then worked. Both the supervisor and manager also were contractor employees.

Furthermore, NRC investigators found, the recommendation for dismissal was neither questioned nor objected to by the plant recovery officer involved with management oversight of the MOV program activities. Neither was the action questioned by the contracts or legal departments, which reviewed it.

As the result of its own investigation and one by Little Harbor Consultants -- which monitored Millstone's safety conscious work environment -- the company rescinded the terminations and offered to reinstate the two individuals.

In a letter to the company, NRC Region I Administrator Hubert J. Miller said the NRC recognizes that Northeast took appropriate actions to ensure that a work environment exists at Millstone in which employees feel free to raise concerns. But, he said these dismissals "resulted in a significant violation of the employee protection standards" of NRC because of the involvement of officials above the level of first-line supervisor. As a result, NRC characterized the violations as a Severity Level II problem, the second highest in the agency's enforcement policy.

Although the company identified the violation and took corrective actions, Mr. Miller said a civil penalty is warranted given that: 1) the then recovery officer and legal and contracts departments failed to question the termination recommendation; 2) senior managers failed to identify and correct the management problems in the motor-operated valve department in sufficient time to prevent the terminations and were slow to recognize and respond to the indications of retaliation; 3) management failed to train its contractor supervisors in the NRC's employee protection regulation, despite the Commission's October 1996 order calling for a safety conscious work environment; and, 4) the past history of violations involving discrimination at Millstone Station. The NRC issued three civil penalties for such violations between 1993 and 1996.

Northeast has 30 days to respond to the enforcement action.

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